The Future of Android and Mobile BI: An Analysis of Google I/O 2014

For those that keep abreast with the latest ongoings with Android, Google I/O is an event eagerly anticipated each year.  What new features will be announced?  And more importantly, what sort of sweet hardware will be handed out to attendees?

This year’s Google I/O represented the greatest fundamental change in Android since the platform’s inception.  Google announced (and gave away to attendees) Android Wear devices, the Android One program for emerging markets, an entirely new design language for both mobile and web called ‘Material Design’, and offered developers a preview of the next major version of Android, simply named Android L at this point (I’m pulling for Lollipop to be the next name in Android’s line of confectionary-inspired version names).

Our Android Mobile BI team has been hungrily digesting all the information put forth at the event, and the areas that we see being the most impactful to Mobile BI going forward include Android Wear, the sea change that is Material Design, and lastly, a feature of Android L that has not been officially confirmed, but exists in whisper form as something called ‘Nearby’.

Android Wear in any other year would have been the runaway star of the show.  A couple months prior, Google released its SDK for wearables, but I/O represented the first time people were able to shroud their wrists in the new devices.  What is Android Wear?  Android Wear is a slimmed down version of Android that allows notifications from your paired phone to be surfaced on your watch.  In addition, Android Wear also offers support for standalone apps present on the watch itself.  From a BI perspective, the most prescient feature is the ability to surface notifications.  We have a few new features in mind that will allow the user to be alerted of changes to data or the availability of new data via the wearable device.  The goal will be to make data come to the user in a timely fashion versus the user needing to search for it.

Material Design is something that bears special mention.  Historically, Android has been panned for its UI/UX (user interface and user experience).  This largely due to the fact that Android is open source and Google allows OEMs to customize much of the software running on the device.  This has led in many instances to a very fractured experience from device to device, OEM to OEM.  Samsung is by far the most popular Android device maker, but is also the one that strays the furthest from Google’s design guidelines, and, in many cases, create (in the author’s opinion) an inferior user experience.  With the introduction of Material Design, Google seems to be raising the design bar to such a level that they are effectively daring OEMs to do something different at the expense of looking clumsy and dated by comparison.  Our design and dev team is taking the principles of Material Design to heart and has some pretty ambitious plans for realizing them in the Mobile BI app.

In recent years, Google has released a ‘Halo’ device in the fall as the flagship for the next version of Android via the Nexus line of devices. This year,developers were treated instead to a preview of the next version of Android, simply referred to as Android L.  Android L contains many, many new features.  The feature that the Mobile BI team is most excited about has not been officially confirmed, but is known to Android sleuthers as ‘Nearby’.  In short, the Nearby feature in Android L will allow your device to be aware when it is near certain people, or rather, their devices.  The potential impact for such a feature is incredible across the entire spectrum of mobile apps, but for Mobile BI in particular, we’ve got several ideas we’re prototyping that can leverage this capability (when it surfaces, hopefully this fall).  Everything from making sharing even easier to having contextual triggers based on a certain person’s proximity to preload a certain report- the possibilities are really tremendous.

This year’s I/O has really gotten the team excited about the future of Android; stay tuned for updates to the Android Mobile BI app.  We’ve got many new features in store.

BI Mobile: The Data Access Dilemma – the Gray Space

What is the BI mobile data access dilemma? Currently, to maintain tight security requirements (to prevent hacking) you have to trade off usability (enter security credentials multiple times to get access to data multiple times). What if BI was so pervasive that you looked at it as often as email? How can we keep it safe and still make it easy to use?

Read more or take a listen: https://blogs.oracle.com/bi_pulse/entry/bi_mobile_the_data_access

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BI Mobile App Designer at KScope 2014

In case you missed it we did a great BI Mobile App Designer (2.0) hands on lab where students went from uninstalled laptop to Mobile app deployment in 2 hours.  We had a few laptop and installation issues but that was to be expected in this format.  If you missed it don’t worry just check the OTN page for the MAD 2.0 trial edition (coming soon!) and you can create your own samples.

http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/middleware/bi-foundation/bi-mobile-app-designer-1983915.html

V2 New Features from Kan Nishida on Vimeo.

iOS 8 Features that Have us Thinking

When you work in the mobile space you have to follow and react to news all the time.  The iOS 8 and OSX announcements https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w87fOAG8fjk at WWDC are a good examples of such news, and there are some key features that have us most intrigued:

TouchID for apps - Security is key for the data we deliver and this could be just another tool for IT to leverage when deploying our enterprise app to data hungry end users.  Not sure if this will solve all the issues with regard to security and data access but it should help along with our Security Toolkit. http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/middleware/bi-enterprise-edition/downloads/bi-mobile-security-toolkit-1872818.html

Continuity - Our users are never working on just one device. They go from the commute (phone) to their office (computer) and to meetings (tablet) all day.  They want to start an analysis on one device and pick it up on any other device.  The iOS stuff is great but we live in a mixed device and OS world so we will look at this for some inspiration, but will have to think about how to do this cross platform.

WKWebView - OK this is super geeky and did not make too many of the articles, but this is huge.  This gives developers the ability to tap into WebKit.  Currently our iOS app loads content in a WebUIView, so long term, if we leverage this it can mean faster load times and javascript calls.  Any changes should be invisible to end users, but this is exciting for us.

Swifthttps://developer.apple.com/swift/ - This one is exciting and scary at the same time because it looks promising but it could mean a re-write.  We need to keep a close eye on this one…

OK keep in mind that this is all stuff that we are looking at along with customer requests, bugs,  and a bunch of our own ideas.  This does not imply any sort of roadmap.

You can check out our apps from the links below:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/oracle-business-intelligence/id534035015?mt=8

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.oracle.obi

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iOS and Android App Store Updates

Late last week there were app store updates for both iOS and Android.  

The Android update date was the 1st of many to come, and this time the release targeted a few minor bug and stability fixes.

If you have not tried out Android app be sure to check it out, there are some great Android specific features!

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.oracle.obi

iOS had over 80 bugs fixed and we did a significant update to the phone UI.  Be sure to update or check it out.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/oracle-business-intelligence/id534035015?mt=8

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Consumer Apps Will Drive How End Users Consume Data and Analytics

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

Dr. Seuss

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Now that we have that out of the way lets talk about what happing with data and analytics right now.  Basically, in a nutshell it is hot, and everyone wants data, even if they don’t know it.  As a result the buzz words and phrases are out with force.

"Big Data", "Predictive Analytics", "Democratization of Data", "Visualizations", "Gamification of BI"…

So I have been in the space for like 20 years and at this point I need a translator.  But let me take a pass what all this means.

There are boat loads of data and I want it to be crazy simple for me to consume, with the goal of making faster and better decisions.

OK, that can make sense to me, and I am pretty sure that is what most end users of BI and Analytics want.  To be clear I am not taking about analysts or data scientists or report authors.  I am talking about the executives, line managers, road warriors, store managers, and more who are the people that need this data so they can make those quick decisions.  

So what does this have to do with consumer apps?  Well it seems to me that the consumer app providers have already solved this and now the enterprise needs to catch up.  Lets look at a few simple examples.

Weather data is complex and there is a ton of it, also people are addicted to weather information, and for good reason.  It helps them make some great decisions throughout their day or week.

"Should I wear a jacket?"

"Should I bring an umbrella?"

" What about sunblock today?"  

Talk about predictive!

So lets look at some weather data.  Here is a sample of Quality Controlled Local Climatological Data (QCLCD) from one airport.  This is a tiny fraction of what can be accessed for a single location.

http://cdo.ncdc.noaa.gov/qclcd/qclcddlysummary.htm

There is no way I am going to comb through this on a daily basis to find out if I need a jacket or not.  So consumer apps take all the complexity out of this and eliminate the need for me to do any exploration or the need for an ‘author’.

With an app in a few easy swipes or taps I get all the info I need am more.  It is easy to read and the information I need to make my decisions are clear.  This one is Yahoo! Weather and there are many other great options. (This one is my favorite because it is simple and beautiful.)

So lets think about my translation of all those buzz words.  Clearly we are dealing with a lots of complex data but it is given to me in a simple clear way that allows me to make every day analytic decisions.

That makes sense.

Lets take a look at one more consumer craze, there are a bunch of great examples but fitness is one the resonates with me.  Talk about another hot market.  I am told that sitting is the new smoking and consumer purchase in this space are re-enforcing this.  Just do a search on “Activity Monitors” and it will be clear that this is a hot consumer trend.  The market is saturated.

One key point to the success and adoption of this is the data and analytics.    So to simplify, here is how it works, the tracker (the thing you wear or your phone) collects the data and some app or site reports the data.  It varies but it can collect everything, including steps, stairs, heart rate, location, sleep patterns, and more.  Wow, we generate a ton of data!  In fact here is an article on putting FitBit data in R.  If you are not sure what that means then you are an end user, and you really don’t care about the how. That is a good thing!

The app is where the magic happens, all this data is presented to the user in a way that is simple and easily actionable.  Things like:

You walked 9,000 steps and that is short of your daily goal.

You are ranked 5th among you friends today.

You woke up 6 times last night and compared to last week that is up 10%.

As a user you can easily translate all of these into actions like get off your butt, or stop with the Red Bull at 9pm.

There are more great examples of this but I would have to go on forever.  Take a look at apps like Google Now, Human, Fitly, Strava and more. 

Hmmm, maybe everyone is a consumer of BI??

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What’s the Deal with Android?

Android devices make up 80% of the worldwide mobile market. So if companies are promoting BYOD to work (bring your own devices), why haven’t we heard anything about Android Business Intelligence (BI) apps?

Matt Milella, a Director of Product Development for Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile Apps, discusses a new Android BI offering and described why Android apps are special, and not just Apple App clones.   

https://blogs.oracle.com/bi_pulse/entry/bi_mobile_what_s_the

Minor change in Security Toolkit

By now we all know that iOS 7.1 is available and most of us probably have it installed.  With this update there were also some updates to Xcode.  One change in how architectures are handled impacts our doc on deploying with our Security Toolkit.  

On page 11, step 6 you will need to change the way you select the proper architectures for building the project.

In the newest version of Xcode this is handled a bit differently.  There are 2 settings to change:

  1. Build Active Architecture Only – Set to No
  2. Valid Architectures – armv7 armv7s (remove arm64)

If you do not do this you will get errors like the following when you build:

(null): Linker command failed with exit code 1 (use -v to see invocation)

We will be updating the doc shortly.

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BI Mobile for Android

OK, it is here!  Check out the new BI Mobile App for Android on the Google Play Store.

  • Make business intelligence as easy to use as any consumer mobile app
  • View, analyze, and act on all your Oracle Business Intelligence content using Android devices.
  • Access new or existing BI content on your mobile device right away; no design changes required
  • Increase the use of business intelligence in your organization with an intuitive and easy-to-use mobile application

Keep in mind this is not an iOS port!  So don’t bother comparing the two feature by feature.  You will find that this version was created with an Android mobile experience in mind and its’ goal is not to replicate the desktop browser product or the iOS version.  Here are some key Android specific features.

  • Android Navigation - Familiar navigation in line with other great Android applications.

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  • Card layout for content in favorites, recent, and the catalog  along with great previews.

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  • Advanced search including Voice and Voice Commands

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  • Android Beam (NFC) Tap to Share

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  • Broad Device Support Android Jelly Bean (4.1) and above.  This includes phones, tablets and phablets.

If you are an android user check it out and let us know what you think!

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